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Winter term decision made by university president

POSTED March 8, 2011 9:13 p.m.

I appreciate the Journal’s recent piece (“University students, faculty adjust…,” March 5) on CSU-Stanislaus’ recent shift to a conventional academic calendar and the replacement of its unique winter term with an evidently less attractive alternative. 

The article rightly calls attention to its much lower variety of course offerings, much higher cost, and more limited student access to financial aid.

But the article conveys two misleading impressions.  First, it says that the move was “primarily motivated by cost-savings.”  That is the university administration’s “party line,” but in fact President Shirvani claimed in other venues that he sought what he called “normalization.” 

That is, because CSU-Stanislaus was the only campus in the CSU system to have the unique winter term, there were administrative pressures to remove it.  Provost James Strong’s contributions to the article suggest as much.  Prior Stanislaus administrations had similarly tried to eliminate winter term, long before the current budget crisis, but tremendous student and faculty support for it kept it alive. 

The difference this time was President Shirvani’s determination to apply the bludgeon and to use the financial rationale as a convenient cover.  That the actual savings fell far short of his public predictions underscores this reality.

The second misleading impression is that “CSU Stanislaus decided” to make this change.  In fact, the university senate voted overwhelmingly (39-6) to retain winter term, reflecting continuing strong support for it. The decision was almost entirely the president’s.  His slighting of the senate vote suggests that he is hardly representative of opinion on the campus – let alone identifiable with the university as the article’s phrasing suggests.

We’ll see whether the administration’s prediction for a “much more robust” winter term next year fares better than its predictions for the this last one.  But let no one think that the decision to change the calendar was primarily motivated by cost savings or was the “university’s.”

 

— Bret Carroll

 
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